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Four Bullets to Shoot Down the Magpies
By: Gareth Edwards
A fine all-round performance from the Mariners saw them beat Notts County 4-0 at Blundell Park last night, and Russell Slade's side are now beginning to look like the real deal as opposed to the many false dawns that fans have endured previously.
Town had two changes from the side that came so agonisingly close to victory at Boston last weekend, with Slade probably hoping to keep his players fresh after the three matches crammed into the week. Andy Parkinson made a full return after making only a substitute appearance at Boston and new loan signing Simon Francis was thrown in at the deep end immediately, with Tom Newey and the unlucky Gary Cohen making way. County's eleven included former Man.Utd keeper Kevin Pilkington, veteran defender Rob Ullathorne and former Mariners centre-half Mike Edwards. They were however without last season's top scorer Glynn Hurst with the young loanees David McGoldrick and Tyrone Berry deputising up front.
Town kicked off in the first half, towards the Pontoon and both teams began at a fairly low tempo, with little space being given to the attackers at both ends. McGoldrick had the first sight of goal for County but he failed to hit the target. Their was very little other goal mouth action to speak of and for the first ten minutes, it was looking like a particularly dull encounter was about to transpire. However, Town began to settle slightly and had a good shout for a penalty turned down when Paul Bolland was felled in the box. Francis' first real incident in a Mariners shirt then followed, when he was crudely scythed down by Ullathrone, who quite rightly received a booking. Martin Gritton then tried a spectacular long range volley, although Pilkington was able to make a simple save.
Nothing on the field was able to lift the crowd in these opening stages, and one expects the less than lively atmosphere could be put down to those who had attended simply for the ticket stub rather than to see the Mariners get down to the nitty gritty of the league. The players fortunately didn't play with this attitude and good link up between Bolland and Francis gave Town their first corner, although this was duly wasted by Parkinson. The loan signing then had an effort saved by Pilkington, in a goal mouth scramble, in which a goal looked certain. The same could then be said at the other end when McDermott cleared off the line from a close range header.
Town then began to look more fluent in their build up and Parkinson had a volley well blocked by Edwards after Reddy's neat wing play. From the resulting corner however, County could only clear their lines as far as McDermott, who with the whole crowd baying for him to shoot, played the ball left to Parkinson. The little winger then put in a pin point cross to Rob Jones , who had stayed up the pitch, and he somehow rose above his marker to steer his header, past Pilkington and into the corner of the net.
Gritton then looked to have doubled the lead just moments later when he rushed through to smash the ball home, but a late, late flag from the linesman saw the goal ruled out for a dubious offside. This seemed to fire up both the crowd and the Scotsman, along with the rest of the Town players and what proceeded was surely to be the best sustained period of good football seen at Blundell Park this season.
Michael Reddy battled hard to win a corner on the left and from this Rob Jones had a good chance to claim a brace, but his volley flew over the top, with what the referee believed to be a deflection. From the successive corner Francis headed wide and Gritton then had a fine effort from the edge of the box saved acrobatically by Pilkington. Francis hit another half chance over the bar and their were increasing fears that this dominance would unfortunately fail to yield that killer second goal.
Martin Gritton had other ideas however, and showed great opportunism to steal in and head home a rebound, from Reddy's shot that was stopped at close range by the keeper. This ended the half on a high for Town, but all those who had seen the Boston game remembered that the job was only half done.
Half time: Town 2 Notts County 0
The report continues in Part Two.
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